The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority (MSCAA) is embarking on an exciting new plan to modernize Memphis International Airport (MEM), with most passenger-facing changes taking place in Concourse B.
The multi-phase, multi-year plan has several projects that will create a better MEM experience for passengers:
Q: How will this benefit passengers? (click for answer)
Airport passengers will benefit in a number of ways from the concourse modernization at Memphis International Airport (MEM). Gates no longer will be spread out across three concourses – they will be consolidated into one. Travelers will have more access to concessionaires since all business will be located in Concourse B. There will be more room to move through the widened corridors and larger boarding areas, more lighting from added windows and taller ceilings, and enhanced customer service via the addition of moving walkways. In addition, we will install new flight information displays that include up-to-date flight information for all airlines serving MEM. With these improvements, MEM will retain the capacity to expand significantly in the future.
Q: When will this begin? (click for answer)
The project began in 2014. The removal of the south end of Concourse A began in November 2014, and the removal of the south end of Concourse C is underway in 2015. Relocation of the airlines will take place in 2016. Significant construction of improvements to Concourse B, the key part of the modernization, is scheduled to begin in 2016. Another project that affects these timelines is the apron reconstruction project, which involves the replacement of aging concrete outside of Concourse B that serve as a parking area for arriving and departing aircraft. This project will be completed in late 2015.
Q: How long will it take? Why? (click for answer)
We estimate that the entire project will take between five and seven years to complete, due to the numerous phases and the extent of the improvements. During this period, the airport and airlines will continue to maintain normal operations for our travelers, without disruption.
Estimated completion dates: (click for answer)
Apron reconstruction (west courtyard) – Complete
Apron reconstruction (inside “Y” area of Concourse B) – 2015
Removal of south end of Concourse A – Early 2015
Removal of south end of Concourse C – Early 2016
Relocation of airline flight operations to Concourse B - 2015
Modernization of Concourse B, Phase 1 – 2017
Modernization of Concourse B, Phase 2 – 2018
Modernization of Concourse B, Phase 3 – 2019-2020
Q: How much will it cost? (click for answer)
The total capital cost of the project is expected to be approximately $114 million. Fortunately, the Airport Authority does not anticipate that this will require the issuance of any additional general airport revenue bond debt.
Q: Is the airport closing A and C concourses? (click for answer)
Yes. However, we are only removing the south ends of the A and C concourses. Check-in will continue in the A, B and C ticketing areas. You still also will be able to enter and exit through the A and C baggage areas. In addition, gates will be retained in A and C for possible future use by the airlines.
Q: Will airline services be affected? (click for answer)
No, the airlines will continue to operate normally in terms of ticketing, flights and baggage. The primary change will be that all airline gate operations will be located in Concourse B. The Airport Authority will continue to update the public on any changes this relocation creates.
Q: Will this affect fares? (click for answer)
No, it will not. The Airport Authority does not set fares for airlines, and the pricing strategy for each airline is independent of any construction that occurs at MEM.
Q: Will this result in loss of jobs at the airport? (click for answer)
The Airport Authority has proactively reduced staff through attrition, and will not lay off any employees as a result of this project. The various other entities, including the airlines, concessionaires and other tenants, will need to evaluate their staff needs in the modernized facility. The overall impact of the concourse modernization will be positive for all parties associated with the airport.
In addition, the construction project will require the Airport Authority to hire local contractors to perform extensive work, which is certainly a plus for the local economy.
Q: Will more concessionaires close up shop? (click for answer)
Some consolidation of concessions may occur, since some businesses may not want to duplicate services in the consolidated area. However, as stated above, these businesses will benefit from the improved flow of passenger traffic.
Q: Will there be enough room for future airlines? (click for answer)
The Airport Authority will continue to relentlessly pursue frequent and affordable air service, and will be able to accommodate the addition of future airlines and flights.
Q: Does this mean we won’t be a hub again? (click for answer)
Airlines are reducing hubs rather than adding them, making it less likely that MEM will be selected as an airport hub again. However, this project will not inhibit MEM’s ability to serve as a hub should the opportunity once again arise. The primary benefit of having an airline hub is the access to more nonstop flights for passengers. However, the fares for these flights are typically higher. During the Delta hub era, Memphis flights had some of the highest fares in the nation. With an origin and destination (O&D)-based airport, passengers must connect in other cities more often, but pay lower fares to get to their destination. Memphis has already seen its average airfares drop since Delta ceased hub operations. Furthermore, there still will be plenty of gates to facilitate future growth for the airport.
Q: Will this affect FedEx? (click for answer)
No, FedEx will continue to operate normally.
Q: How are you going to come up with $114 million and why don't you use that for something else? (click for answer)
The majority of the modernization costs will be funded by federal and state grants with the balance from our operating budget. Each year we receive federal grants for capital projects. We plan on using a portion of these grant funds for the project. The State collects a jet fuel tax. This tax provides each airport in Tennessee with grant funding for capital improvement projects and equipment. Our long-term debt payments are scheduled to drop significantly in two years, freeing up funds in our budget for the project.
Q: Why don't you move everyone to A and C while B is getting renovated, then move them back? (click for answer)
The logistics involved in such a move would be complex, costly and difficult from an airline operational standpoint. Our current plan allows the minimum number of moves, at the lowest cost, and matches our funding plan.
Q: Instead of removing the ends of A and C, why don’t you open up that space to businesses and other companies? (click for answer)
An airport is not typically a shopping destination. There would be many difficulties presented by this possibility. Security would be an issue due to the proximity to airport-related activities. Parking also would be a concern, as would the costs involved with maintaining such an operation. By removing the south end of A and C concourses, we significantly improve the operational flow of aircraft and allow the expansion of Concourse B. The Airport Authority feels the terminal needs to be modernized to maximize the air travel experience. However, for those passengers who seek retail, food and beverage services, the consolidation of concessions in Concourse B will provide a number of accessible options.
Q: Why did you build that parking garage with all these changes coming? (click for answer)
The main reason is that the passengers lost with the hub departure were transfer passengers – they weren’t parking here. They were connecting in Memphis on their way to their eventual destination. The good news is usage of airport parking continues to increase rapidly, and was unaffected by the loss of the Delta hub. The creation of the Ground Transportation Center also allowed the airport to consolidate the rental car companies and employee parking in a central location. Finally, the parking garage is a source of convenience for passengers, who can park for as little as $6 per day at the airport. This is an important revenue source for the airport as well.